SolarWorld Cuts Injury Rates in Half Using Humantech’s Ergonomics Tools
ANN ARBOR, Mich., July 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Humantech’s ergonomic assessment tools helped SolarWorld, one of the world’s largest solar energy companies, reduce its reportable OSHA injury rate by 50 percent.
After a period of strong organizational growth and high productivity, SolarWorld’s OSHA recordable injury rate increased to over 5.0 in 2008. Seventy percent of the reported injuries were related to poor ergonomics. “Since maintaining safety is one of our core values, we knew we had to do something. Our main goal is to have zero injuries,” says Bryan Trotter, Health and Safety Environmental Manager at SolarWorld, headquartered in Hillsboro, Oregon.
Trotter went to work, and in late 2008, SolarWorld began addressing its ergonomics challenges. “We had to identify the highest-risk areas and fix them,” says Trotter. To determine those areas, SolarWorld brought together its safety, ergonomics, and engineering teams. Through Humantech’s training, they learned what an ergonomics management system looks like, and what key elements and tools are required to implement a successful program.
Identifying the high-risk tasks was easy using Humantech’s BRIEF(TM) Survey and BEST(TM) assessment tools. “Using these tools, we were able to identify the most problematic job tasks, and the associated high-risk postures and activities,” says Trotter. Video was also used to capture the functions of each task. Three high-risk tasks in each department were assigned to an engineer whose goal was to reduce the risk from a high or very high score to a medium or low score.
Two of the improvements made during this process are described below. Previously, workers had experienced ergonomic injuries in these jobs; since the improvements, no injuries have been reported.
- Lifting a lid. A technician removed a 50-pound lid from a filter with a wrench and a wing nut 8 to 10 times per shift. After analysis, a pneumatic lid lifter was installed on all 81 filters in the plant. This improvement eliminated awkward hand postures, forces, and back twisting. The BEST assessment score was reduced from high to low risk.
- Removing glass. Operators were required to pry glass, at 400 degrees F, from a metal plate, and then manually scrape off epoxy from the metal. This task, performed 100 times per day, contributed to poor posture, excessive force, and high repetition, and caused the inhalation of foreign substances. After review, a self-contained cleaning tool was fabricated. Operators now load the assembly into the cleaning tool where the glass and epoxy are scraped off with a pneumatic blade. This improvement eliminated hand postures, forces, and other exposures, and reduced the BEST assessment score from high to low risk.
SolarWorld’s efforts paid off. With the right assessment tools and completion of a facility-wide risk map, the overall process was deemed a success. To read the full case study visit http://www.humantech.com/about/clients/solarworld-client-success-story.
For over 30 years, global companies have relied on Humantech for workplace improvements. We deliver practical solutions that impact safety, quality, and productivity. For more information visit www.humantech.com.